Russian authorities in Crimea deny medical treatment for jailed journalist Iryna Danylovych

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Paris, March 28, 2023—Authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea should allow journalist Iryna Danylovych access to swift and thorough medical care, and should release all members of the press held for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Imprisoned Crimean journalist Iryna Danylovych has been denied medical treatment while in prison

Russian authorities have held Danylovych, a nurse and freelance journalist covering the healthcare system, since April 2022. During her detention, authorities have beaten and threatened to kill her.

On March 22, 2023, the Ukrainian human rights group Zmina published a letter from Danylovych saying that her health had deteriorated while behind bars, that she had been denied medical treatment, and she had begun a dry hunger strike, refusing all liquids until she was granted access to adequate medical care.

Also on March 21, Danylovych fainted while being transported to a Crimean court, according to multiple news reportsa report by Zmina, and Lutfiye Zudiyeva, a representative of the human rights group Crimean Solidarity, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

“Russian authorities in occupied Crimea should immediately grant journalist Iryna Danylovych access to medical assistance and stop punishing members of the press for their work,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Danylovych should not be in prison in the first place, and authorities should stop retaliating against Crimean journalists by depriving them of their basic rights.”

In her letter, Danylovych said that she had suffered from hearing loss and a constant ringing in her left ear for four months, causing her “unbearable pain.” She wrote that she suspected that she had suffered “a mini stroke” but had not been examined or treated, and that local authorities had been aware of her condition since late November 2022.

Danylovych’s father Bronislav Danylovych told CPJ by phone that she was “suffering from strong headaches and had a constant noise in her ears, as if she was standing close to an aircraft engine,” when he last met with her on March 20.

Bronislav Danylovych told CPJ that he met with representatives of the detention center and the penitentiary system’s medical service on March 27. During that meeting, those representatives told the journalist’s father that Danylovych was receiving medication, but he told CPJ that he did not believe them. He said he considered her treatment to be retaliation for her journalism.

Zudiyeva told CPJ that such medical assistance is required to be administered at a civilian hospital, and said the journalist had not been transferred to such a facility.

During a March 21 meeting with her lawyer, Danylovych said she could not properly study her case files because of her health, Zudiyeva told CPJ. In her letter, she wrote that she would not study her files until she recovers and considered her treatment “torture.”

Danylovych worked at a medical center in the village of Vladyslavivka and contributed to local news websites InZhir Media and Crimean Process.

On December 28, 2022, she was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 50,000 rubles (US$690) for allegedly handling explosives. She denied the charges and wrote that explosives had been planted to incriminate her.

Danylovych appealed her conviction, but a date for an appeal hearing has not been set, according to Zudiyeva and Zmina’s international advocacy officer, Tetiana Zhukova, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app and email.

CPJ emailed the Feodosia City Court, where Danyloych’s trial is taking place, as well as the Simferopol detention center, where she is being held, and the Crimean Federal Penitentiary Service but did not immediately receive any responses.

At least 19 journalists, including Danylovych, were behind bars in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea on December 1, 2022, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists